It’s part of the relationship cycle for a gamer. You meet a game. You fall in love. You learn every little bit about the game. You buy trinkets to make it prettier and better. Eventually, you decide you can improve it. For most people, this takes the form of house rules, variants or outright new rules that customize the play experience to their liking. I’m a big fan of house rules in general, although I do think there needs to be stronger etiquette when introducing strangers to the Way We Play and reconciling differences. House rules usually exist in the mind. Sometimes, if they’re copious, sufficiently game-changing or thought to be worth circulating, they’re compiled and written down.
The simultaneous, if unrelated, rises of desktop publishing, availability of increased bandwidth and Boardgamegeek as a central repository of content allow for an amazing amount of custom material to circulate among game players, from house rule compilations and beyond. And beyond, I’m thinking specifically of fan-written game expansions. My beloved Arkham Horror is particularly blessed in this regard, as Chris Jennings wrote Strange Eons, a computer program that makes generating new content a breeze. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of custom investigators, Ancient Ones, heralds, items, monsters, encounters and more floating around Boardgamegeek and Fantasy Flight Games’ official forum.
Like the way of house rules, fan-generated content forms a spectrum of depth and comprehensiveness. Most creators create one-offs as the ideas come. A smaller portion will create themed packs: the cast of Scooby-Doo as investigators, for instance. Smaller still are those who go the distance of creating the full expansion experience, like thecorinthian’s Cult of the Golden Scarab.
And that’s what I want to go for. I’ve had this idea floating at the back of my mind for a while, since last spring, at least. I want to create a full replacement board for Arkham Horror that transposes the horror and weirdness of Lovecraft to Vermont. For the moment, I’m calling it Eldritch Vermont, mostly because “Vermont Horror” doesn’t have much of a ring to it. Where the official big box expansions, like Dunwich Horror, add a small board with nine or so locations in three neighborhoods that works in conjunction with the primary board representing the town of Arkham, I want to make something on a scale that substitutes for the Arkham board itself.
Nine townships or regions take the place of Arkham’s nine neighborhoods, each with two or three locations: Burlington, Montpelier, the Northeast Kingdom, Middlebury, Bennington, Brattleboro — with the Akeley Place, of course — the Islands, Windsor and Royalton. Because this is a substitute board, rather than a supplemental expansion, all the main functions of the basic Arkham Horror board have to be included: hospital and asylum, shops and so on. The hospital function easily maps to the Dummerston Medical School in the Brattleboro region, for example.
After that, it all gets a bit hazy. I’m going to have to dive into the corpus of Lovecraftiana, both canon and apocryphal, as well as Vermont-specific resources like Green Mountain Ghosts, Ghouls & Unsolved Mysteries, Passing Strange, both by chronicler of oddities Joseph Citro, and whatever books of horror and high weirdness in Vermont I can find. I think this is going to be a long term project. Like really long term. Maybe it’ll be ready for Carnage 2011.